This past July, ten students and two instructors traveled to Namibia from the U.S. to take part in a course on international librarianship with the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The first week of the course was spent in the capital city, Windhoek, touring a wide variety of institutions. We were graciously welcomed by the Namibian Department of Education and met with staff members of academic, community, and national libraries and archives. This gave us a little bit of background in understanding how the libraries operate in Namibia. It was great to hear about the accomplishments of the libraries and to see the ways in which our experiences were similar and different in the U.S. Many of the academic libraries are transitioning into having more space for technology, like computer labs; and the community libraries are struggling to have enough study space for their users. One of the big differences, however, is that in Namibia, there is a shortage in workers available to fill skilled library positions.
During the second week, we headed north to visit two brand new libraries, one in the Oshana Region and one in the Ohangwena Region. The libraries were partially staffed but not yet open to the members of the community. These are the most beautiful, bright libraries I had ever seen! The staffat each location invited two groups of visitors (school children and young adults) to come on both Thursday and Friday for a special preview of the library and a programming event. We spent the first part of the week together preparing for our visitors. We came with a few ideas and asked the library staff if they’d think it would work. They were brave in becoming impromptu role play actors and learning “Duck, Duck, Goose”!
I was part of the planning group for the young adults, and we created a seminar on job seeking and employment skills featuring fabulous role plays demonstrating good and bad behaviors by our Namibian library staff. My favorite part of the event was meeting with the students in small groups to discuss what we had presented. I personally didn’t have experience in group instruction so this was a new skill we were practicing together. The librarians had pulled some of the job resource materials in the business section of the library and the students seemed eager to come back to the library upon it’s opening.
We greatly enjoyed getting to know all of the many Namibians that took the time out of their days to meet with us and talk about their work and to share their country with us. This is a fundamental part of why getting involved in international librarianship is so important- to share knowledge and create partnerships. This, of course, is one of the reasons that I became interested in IFLA and NPSIG!
For more details on our adventures, you can visit our class blog at: http://blog.umd.edu/namibianlibraries/.
This guest post was written by Kelly Knight, a MLS student in Washington, DC. She is interested in international development, public health, and business/entrepreneurship. When she is not at the reference desk or in class, she likes to spend time outdoors and travel (extensively). You can follow Kelly at @kellylknight.
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